5: Rich and vulnerable
In addition to oil and gas, the High North is extremely rich in living natural resources . The fishing and aquaculture industry is our second largest export industry, with an annual export income of approx. NOK 30 billion and with a large growth potential. Half of the Norwegian fishermen belong to Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, and 60 per cent of the registered year-round operated fishing vessels come from there. The petroleum interests must therefore be reconciled with the fishing and catching interests, which have been the basis for living conditions and settlement and will continue to be so, together with the petroleum activities.
The northern areas are ecologically very vulnerable areas , which are exposed to major climate changes. The winter temperature in parts of the Arctic has increased by 3-4 degrees over the last fifty years, and the average temperature in the area has increased significantly more than the global temperature in the same period. The ice retreats. The changes emphasize the importance of achieving comprehensive reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, the northern areas function as a terminus for long-distance transported environmental toxins that are supplied with the air and sea currents from southern latitudes and accumulate in the food chains, both in mammals and seabirds. The work to limit the supply of such environmental toxins is an important common task for the member countries of the Arctic Council . The living conditions of indigenous peoples are another important issue.
6: Cooperation on nuclear safety
Norway has been a driving force in strengthening nuclear safety work in Russia. Two thirds of the Norwegian funds have been used to reduce the risk of accidents at Russian nuclear power plants in our immediate areas and to handle the storage of radioactive material and spent nuclear fuel. Here are some tricky dilemmas: By increasing the safety of the nuclear power plant at Kola, we are also extending the service life of the plant. And by transporting spent fuel to the storage site in Majak, we contribute to the Russian plutonium storage while recycling is the most polluting part of the nuclear cycle.
So far, the level of radioactive contamination is low. However, the uncertainty is great and the fear widespread, and suspicions and rumors of radioactive contamination can cause significant damage to economic interests.
7: The importance of the environment
The environmental dimension is of paramount importance. If it fails there, there is much else that also collapses. The Government has set as a precondition for petroleum activity in the Barents Sea that discharges to sea will not occur during normal operation. On the Norwegian continental shelf, the oil companies are required to environmentally monitor both the seabed and the sea. But this does not help much if the Russians do not set strict environmental requirements for the petroleum business as well.
The largest petroleum reserves are on the Russian side, and the pollution does not respect state borders. Perhaps the Norwegian government should initiate negotiations with the strongest stakeholders – primarily Russia, the United States and the major European countries / EU. It must be a goal as soon as possible to establish environmental rules and minimum standards for the economic activity in the area. With our location, and with the emphasis we place on environmental protection, such an initiative will not come as a surprise.
Russia lacks a separate Ministry of Environmental Protection. The former Ministry of the Environment was transformed into a state committee in 1996. The committee was abolished in 2000 and the functions were taken over by the Ministry of Natural Resources, which also issues licenses for resource extraction – for a fee. Russian spokesmen say they share the Norwegian desire for strict environmental requirements, but in practice it is a long-term task to move Russia up to Norwegian environmental standards.
Good environmental management costs. A government-appointed committee – the Orheim Committee, which laid an important part of the basis for the High North Report – proposed one barents billion for business, administration and research. As a model, Sweden’s proposal has allocated two billion for environmental protection and development of infrastructure in the Baltic Sea region after the Cold War. So far, however, Norwegian policy is quite non-binding in terms of the size of public investment. There is no reason at all to ask critical questions about the relationship between the measures that have been announced, and the dimensions of the challenges and opportunities we face in the north.
8: Russian skepticism of Norway
In the last 10-15 years, according to a2zgov.com, many Norwegian dispositions have been met with skepticism on the Russian side. There is a widespread perception in Russia that Norway has exploited Russian weakness after the Cold War to advance its positions. The Russians see a legitimacy in this: This is how it is in international politics; what one wins, the other loses. The examples are reportedly many.
The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act of 2001 puts the environment ahead of industry and created problems for the Russian mining establishment in the Coledalen. The fish protection zone around Svalbard is not accepted by the Russians and creates “episodes”, such as when the Coast Guard brought the trawler “Chernigov” into the Norwegian port in 2002. It was accused of large-scale violations (extra fine-mesh nets, threw a lot of dead small fish) and some time later by sending the cruiser “Severomorsk” into the zone. The radar station outside Longyearbyen, the rocket firing range at Ny-Ålesund and the Globus II radar in Vardø are other Russian complaints. From time to time, the Russians put the Norwegian dispositions in connection with NATO enlargement and invest more in NATO membership than we do. In any case, Norway has a problem of explanation here, not least in convincing the Russians that when we say environmental protection,
9: Greater Norwegian presence?
As the challenges and opportunities in the north are recognized, there must be consequences for our military dispositions. The defense must follow where the vital national interests lie. A higher regular or permanent presence will make it easier to keep track, easier to register deviations from normal and easier to take measures against behavior we do not like. A greater Norwegian presence in the High North will increase our political freedom of action. Sending military units from the south can have an unwanted escalation effect. Here, however, we have time to form a military profile that gives credibility to Norwegian demands without inviting renewed militarization of the area.
It is most urgent to agree on rules for how fishing, transport and petroleum activities should be coordinated. This applies virtually regardless of how fast or slow the petroleum extraction goes, because regulations take time to develop, and it should preferably come in advance. The Russians are engaged in oil production in the Pechora Sea, and oil transport from Russian ports on Kola and south along the coast of Norway is increasing year by year.